Written by William Hillis, Research Editor with RSIR
Golf, the world’s foremost stick-and-ball game, will forever be associated with Scotland. Yet the Puget Sound offers a strong assortment of world-leading courses playable year-round in the region’s mild climate amidst scenic topography. A fjord system of valleys carved by glaciers, the bays and inlets of Puget Sound are not unlike the firths of Scotland. And more than any other popular sport, golf is a game in which—in every sense—the landscape comes into play.
The U.S. Golf Association (USGA) recognized these qualities when, for the first time in its 115-year history, it brought its national championship U.S. Open to Chambers Bay at University Place in 2010.
Chambers Bay is just one of many top courses in the Puget Sound region. In fact, it wasn’t Pebble Beach or Shinnecock Hills to which President Jimmy Carter brought Party Secretary Deng Xiaoping to the U.S. on his visit in January 1979. Instead, it was at Seattle that Deng—then engaged in opening China to the West—was introduced by Carter to Robert Trent Jones, the world’s leading golf course architect at that time. Responding to Deng’s inquiry about the game, Jones replied, “It’s a small ball hit over a big field into a hole, and people gamble about it and they buy each other drinks,” to which Deng replied, “Oh perfect, the Chinese will love it!” 
Golf encounters hazards in China
Recent Chinese leaders have not been so keen on what Chairman Mao banned in 1949 as “a sport for millionaires.”  Since 2004, Chinese leaders have banned new construction of golf courses in China, although local officials have reportedly allowed construction of some to proceed regardless. Aware of the circumvention, the central government had closed 111 of the country’s courses by June of this year.
But not before whetting appetites for golf among Chinese, who have remained the world’s most prolific international tourists for more than five consecutive years, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.  Chinese travelers, and ever more frequently, Chinese homebuyers overseas, can seek tee times at the world’s premier courses, or invest in homes that back onto courses they can play any day.
Courses and homes in the Puget Sound region
The Douglas fir-lined links at Canterwood Golf & Country Club at Gig Harbor were designed by Robert Muir Graves and opened for play in 1988. The course was later renovated by John Harbottle, who designed Palouse Ridge and also restored Broadmoor in Seattle, among many others in the region. In 2014, Golf Digest named the 7,175-yard, par 72 Canterwood one of the top 10 courses in Washington State. With a slope rating of 141, it draws practiced golfers ready to push their limits. Players describe Canterwood as “a great golf experience” and “the very best” in the state, “a challenging yet fun game of golf” with greens “the same speed as a billiards table.”
Thelma Channon, who has been selling real estate in Gig Harbor for the past 18 years and specializes in Canterwood, observes that the community is becoming more and more popular as savvy buyers from both Seattle and overseas discover the incredible values, views, and charm of the area. “You can buy an amazing Canterwood Golf & Country Club, waterfront or view property for about 70 percent of what you would pay in the Seattle or Eastside neighborhoods,” Channon says.
Homebuyers with enthusiasm for golf should consider three homes at Canterwood currently offered for sale by Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty (RSIR):
4504 N Foxglove Dr NW, Gig Harbor | Offered at $1,048,000
On the 14th fairway at Canterwood, this stunning contemporary architectural design offers more than 5,200 square feet of quality and luxury, with soaring ceilings and windows galore. The great room opens to a gorgeous kitchen with granite countertops and top-of-the-line appliances, and multi-level decks boast the ultimate fairway views. After a round, entertain guests outdoors at the covered wet bar or indoors in formal living and dining rooms. Later, retreat to your private den or relax in the exquisite master bedroom with a fireplace and luxury five-piece bath.
13221 Foxglove Dr NW, Gig Harbor | Offered at $1,298,000
This custom rambler by Hoppet Design offers over 4,800 square feet of luxurious living space on Canterwood’s short grass, with quality appointments throughout. Rich details appear at every turn: a gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, Dacor subzero and stainless steel appliances, radiant slate floors, African ribbon mahogany cabinetry, three gas fireplaces, cultured stone features, and custom blown glass wall sconces. There are four decks for taking in the magnificent golf course vistas at Canterwood.
12214 50th Ave Ct NW, Gig Harbor | Offered at $1,398,000
This luxurious home of over 5,500 square feet offers panoramic views of the first fairway with an elegant deck for entertaining outdoors. Indoors, guests will be enthralled by a grand entryway with a double staircase, formal living and dining rooms, an oversized gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, a large morning room that opens to the deck, and a family room with a fireplace. Escape to your newly remodeled master suite on the main floor with a second fireplace and a spa-like bath. A main floor office, amazing gardens, and this prime location at Canterwood complete the perfect golf-lover’s retreat.
The Golf Club at Newcastle
Golfers who prefer to play their rounds closer to King County’s commercial centers love to tee off at The Golf Club at Newcastle. Here there are two courses, both designed by Bob Cupp: the picturesque, 7,024-yard Coal Creek, influenced by Fred Couples; and the less taxing, 6,632-yard China Creek. Coal Creek has a slope of 129 and a breathtaking view of Seattle.
The Club at Newcastle offers the best high-end golf play closest to the city. RSIR currently offers the following home for sale there:
15131 SE 80th St, Newcastle | Offered at $2,095,000
This majestic home in Newcastle offers grand living space in a stunning setting along the 6th fairway of the Golf Club at Newcastle’s China Creek golf course. Exceptional construction complements a dramatic design, providing all the modern luxuries while evoking classical forms: cherry cabinets and floors, gorgeous wainscoting and millwork. Relax in the grand master suite and entertain in the gourmet kitchen flowing to the family room and custom wine cellar. Enjoy the covered patio with its custom gas fire pit and views of the golf course.
Sean Nielsen and Ashley Flynn-Stevens, the RSIR team representing this China Creek estate, have sold eight other homes at the Golf Club at Newcastle within the past 18 months. One was an 8,202 square-foot home that sold for $2.95 million within just over two weeks in early July. Another property listed by Nielsen and Flynn-Stevens sold later that month: an 8,871 square-foot mansion on nearly a third of an acre, owned by a former member of the Seattle Seahawks.
Nielsen noted that “in order to market these luxury golf course homes above price points never before seen in Newcastle, we realized our values were half the cost of homes in downtown Bellevue. Literally, the price per square foot was half the cost of those only 15 minutes away, yet still with great schools and amenities including golfing and hiking on Cougar Mountain.”
Along with Washington National Golf Club in Auburn and The Plateau Club at Sammamish, The Golf Club at Newcastle was among eight courses purchased a year ago (October 2016) from Oki Golf by HNA Holdings, which owns Hainan Airlines. HNA paid $137 million for the properties, and retained Oki Golf to manage and run the courses. 
Just this month (September 2017), RSIR closed a sale at another of these eight HNA-owned courses: Harbor Pointe on the Puget Sound shore at Mukilteo. RSIR brokers Carrie DeBuys and Alex Hayes sold the 3,018-square foot home on a quarter-acre at 12021 Clubhouse Lane for $765,820, more than two percent above the listed price.
A Harbor Pointe home sold over 2% above the listing price was represented by RSIR brokers Carrie Debuys & Alex Thomas
In another China-related golf investment story, the Vancouver Sun recently reported a sale at Point Roberts, the offshore thumb of Washington State adjoining British Columbia south of the 49th parallel. Last July, three Chinese real estate investors including a Canadian permanent resident originally from the province of Hunan, purchased the 18-hole Point Roberts Golf and Country Club for $4.5 million. They reportedly are renovating the course with plans to reopen it next spring (2018) as the Bald Eagle Golf Club at Point Roberts.
Dean Jones, RSIR owner and CEO, observed that tertiary markets such as this one are now attracting Chinese in search of residential, commercial, and lifestyle real estate investments like golf courses. “Point Roberts is a unique little slice of real estate, because it is America, but it’s accessible through B.C.,” Jones said. “It doesn’t surprise me that someone wants the Vancouver lifestyle at a fraction of the price.” The flood of Chinese buyers is now spilling over into such “newer pockets of interest,” creating “self-fulfilling prophecies of rising markets.” “Once these relatively obscure markets are on the map, it becomes like a self-priming pump,” Jones said.  Chinese interest in golf is just one expression of this broader trend favoring inbound investment.
Wing Point Golf & Country Club
Yet another of the Northwest’s fine golf courses can be found on Bainbridge Island, accessible from Seattle by ferry. Wing Point is one of the region’s older courses, having first opened in 1903. In 1990, it was redesigned by Jack Frei. Golfers report that despite occasional wind, the 6,053-yard Wing Point course is easy, yet “incredibly fun to play” for those who can control their aim and distance.
RSIR has the following home listed at Wing Point on Bainbridge Island:
1174 High School Rd NE, Bainbridge Island | Offered at $1,198,000
This spacious 5,128 square foot residence is situated on the 16th fairway of the Wing Point course. There are four bedrooms with a huge recreation room, den, and a fabulous master suite on the main floor. You’ll enjoy close walking distance to the Seattle ferry, downtown Bainbridge Island (Winslow), shops, the library, and Bainbridge Island’s highly rated schools. The beautiful backyard and expansive deck (plumbed for BBQ and a hot tub) are great for entertaining. Inside are 17 foot vaulted ceilings, a three-car garage, and above, a brand-new 30-year composition roof.
If you feel the allure of Puget Sound luxury living complemented by some of the nation’s best golf venues, view more Golf Course Properties here.
 Rob Schmitz, “China’s Government Tightens Its Grip on Golf, Shuts Down Courses,” National Public Radio, 23 June 2017.
 Dan Washburn, “China declares war on ‘forbidden game’ of golf,” CNNMoney, 6 April 2015.
 Liu Zhen, “China retains top spot as world’s big spender on overseas tourism,” South China Morning Post, 15 April 2017.
 Jim Davis, “Oki Golf sells Mukilteo’s Harbour Pointe, other courses for $137M,” Everett Herald, 11 October 2016.
 Larry Pynn, “Chinese investors discover sleepy Point Roberts, Washington, on B.C. border,” Vancouver Sun, 10 September 2017.
 Pynn, ibid.
[RSIR Owner & President Dean Jones contributed to this story.]